6 years. A lot can happen in 6 years. A child born then would be trying out their 2nd year in the school system. A president would have run a 5 year term and would be seeking another. A doctor would have graduated from medical school and now be able to practice. A court case might still be ongoing. A road could be undergoing re-construction in the name of an upgrade. A mango tree maybe moons shy of sharing fruit. A hit song could as well be forgotten just as its singer. As other things come to life, others lose theirs. There is no guarantee. As some Institutions struggle to keep a leg in the pursuit of life, others skyrocket up the ladder. In 6 years, the Kampala International Theatre Festival (KITF) has been growing. It has grown from being an idea to being a place where theatre lovers and practitioners look forward to annually.

This year it takes place at the prestigious Ndere Cultural Centre and the historical Uganda Museum with acts coming mainly across Africa. They will converge in these two main locations to showcase a multiplicity of craft that they have been working on. Artistes are very interesting people. They come up with a whole lot of ideas that you only have to be in their space to get into their minds. Such can only be achieved when you attend their shows in the auditoriums where they perform. However, you may be disadvantaged with time to see everything more so given that they operate in various spaces. Enter KITF.

KITF exists to bring together the works of the various s artistes in one place and showcase them to the world. They are so many that they need to be celebrated by taking some time off. This is how the idea of how a festival comes about.

Asiimwe Deborah Kawe had been away from home for a while. She had left the country to pursue further studies but later chose to stay after an opportunity to work showed up. In addition, she wanted to see the rest of the world. There was a big world ahead of her that she needed to get an idea of. The things of home, she knew, what about those yonder? Besides, there was nothing so compelling to come back to.

Asiimwe has a reserved persona. The kind that easily lets one feel at liberty to throw jabs in form of question to her. She looks at you sternly as you talk softly internalising and interpreting them. Her hands rest crisscrossed on each other like a tangle before she unfolds them to respond to my queries.

Everything was well until home called. It was roughly 6 years later. Home wanted her. Her heart had rebelled against the matters of the mind and it was pushing its agenda. She had met someone she wanted to stay with the rest of her life and Uganda would be the best place for their marriage to blossom.

She packed her bags and came back home. But what was she going to do while here?  Teaching was out of the way for her. The opportunities were there but she was not attracted to them. She had the idea of how the business was run and she could not fathom being part of the same system. “I wanted to teach but teach differently.”

Borrowing from her former job at the prestigious Sundance Institute, she realised there was not a festival where artistes were celebrated back home. The idea of Kampala International Theatre Festival was born. It was born out of the need to make sure that there was a place where artistes converged, shared and showcased their works. It was important, called for and urgent. That is how the story of KITF began six years ago.

Different things are now happening at the festival this year. More theatre practitioners are coming on board to showcase their works from different parts of the word but most importantly there are also a number of curators coming. When they see what the artistes here are doing, they are swept away. It is because of this that a number of acts have been called to perform on different stages of the world. However, there is still a lot of work to be done.

KITF always puts out a call for submission of works to feature at the year’s festival. They have found themselves at a point when they cannot accept some acts on to the festival list because of their complexity. They are yet to get there. So far, they can only get a few. This is also attributed to the limited funding that the institution currently has.

KITF offers an opportunity to the playwrights to be seen, to learn from each other but more so to be able to improve their skill.

“In a world where there is a lot that feels like theatre, we do not want to be reminded of what is around us. We would rather be showed the lighter side of things to laugh at our tragedies than face them in reality and discuss it.”

Every year, there has been a growing number of people coming up for the shows. There are plans to have acts in different languages showcase their craft as well. In a country where theatre has been taking a back seat for some years, the recovery seems to be coming on though slowly. This year, the festival will hold conversations, workshops, dance theatre, theatre for children and staging the plays. Details about the festival can be found here.

This is the first entry to the #KITF2019 blog series.


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